Thanks to Disney+ and the wonders of our modern age, the entire Disney Afternoon library is viewable in one place! There are many reasons you should revisit these shows (or visit them for the first time if you’re woefully young), but one of the biggest reasons is to view the work of Disney Animation’s Australian unit.
These guys produced some of the best TV animation of the 90s, if not ever. But why merely take our word for it? This Thanksgiving weekend, why don’t you take advantage of your bountiful free time by checking out these recommended episodes? The eye candy is exquisite.
BONKERS: THE COLLECTOR
In the two-part pilot episode “Going Bonkers,” which is listed on Disney+ as episode 46 for some reason, Bonkers is kidnapped and dragged into the sewer. There he meets the Wuzzle From Hell, who calls himself “The Collector.” Speaking in raspy whispers, this abomination says he uses a device of his own invention called “The Laminator” to freeze toons under glass, making them immobile so he can display them in his private gallery. But that’s not important. What we’re really here for is the animation.
The Collector is made up of multiple animal parts. He’s an incredibly awkward shape and he’s full of little details like the medals he wears on his vest. He has pencils jutting out of his right hand, which he wields like Freddy Krueger’s glove. He looks like a complete NIGHTMARE to have to animate. And yet they did it FLAWLESSLY.
Whoever was assigned to make this guy move was not only a genius, he knew it, and he flaunted his talent all throughout the scene. The Collector is constantly in motion, making dramatic poses, sticking his pencils in your face — there are no cheats, no angles avoided. He’s fully realized in 3D with just 2D tools. He’s an absolute wonder. I can’t stop watching this guy move around, and I fire up the episode every now and then JUST to see The Collector again.
I’ll tell you this now, half my choices are from Bonkers. This show isn’t as beloved as some of the others, but what it DID have is a premise that allowed Disney Australia to work to its strengths — rubbery, classic, traditional cartoon characters. They created another wonder with “The Day The Toon Stood Still,” and its central character, Pops.
As we’re told, Pops is the being that oversees all of toon time. But he’s lately gone a bit….berserk. He’s ripping out the gears of his own clock and causing toons everywhere to go haywire. It’s eventually revealed that if Pops doesn’t regain his sanity, the toon continuum will be destroyed, and all toons with it.
Things get downright apocalyptic towards the end, and shots of Pops laughing maniacally as everything falls apart around him are SPECTACULAR. Smoke is filling the area, the wind is blowing, and hair and clothing are in constant fluid motion. The episode — especially this part — is a wonder to watch.
BONKERS: BASIC SPRAINING
A criminal with the unsubtle moniker of MacSlime has escaped from prison, and he wants revenge on Lucky and Bonkers. So he goes to the extreme of rigging up a phony academy test and summons Bonkers there. The test is grueling and intentionally impossible to pass, and Bonkers is told that if he fails he’ll be “off the force” (aka fired).
Since neither Bonkers nor Lucky are in any real danger of being fired, there’s not much point to the ruse beyond making them miserable. However the climactic portion of the test involves MacSlime running them over with a bulldozer, something he should have led with if he hates them so much. The Bonkers stock music library wasn’t built for dramatic turns like this, so as Lucky is in danger of dying from the bulldozer, the soundtrack is boingy and whimsical and doesn’t seem to match.
But it’s the animation that saves this episode — bold and dynamic, it supplies the tension even when nothing else is doing the job. The absolute highlight is when Bonkers helps Lucky phase through a painted tunnel — Disney Australia’s work gets near-theatrical at that point.
GOOF TROOP: A GOOF OF THE PEOPLE
Goofy’s flowers are dying, and Max points out the culprit: the new SlimeCo factory up the hill, which is pumping out pollution by the truckload. Goofy tries to talk to the company’s owner, Mr. Sludge, but when Sludge won’t back down, Goofy decides to go over his head and run for mayor. Mr. Sludge fears Goofy could actually win on an anti-pollution platform, and convinces Pete to run against Goofy as a puppet candidate.
Since Goof Troop was a more grounded series, Disney Australia didn’t get to be quite as adventurous with the animation as they were with Bonkers a year later, but there were rare exceptions — like Mr. Sludge here, who for reasons unexplained, is literally a blob of living sludge. The unusual nature of his existence let the studio take entertaining liberties with his movement (he doesn’t even have legs) and facial features (his gigantic mouth has a “Tobacco Depiction” hovering out of it, something they wouldn’t allow today).
The best part is when Sludge steps in front of a computer monitor and the bottom half of his features are illuminated by its glow. Not only that, the light is constantly changing colors. This was pre-digital, folks!
TIMON AND PUMBAA: BUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE
This one actually got some press when it came out, because it not only featured high-quality motion from Disney Australia, but a fully original orchestrated soundtrack (which was something Warner Bros had been doing on all its shows for six years, but never mind). This was the second season finale, and it was unknown if the series would continue past this point. A third season eventually appeared on the Disney Channel under a different creative group, but before then, the original team gave the best finale performance they possibly could.
ALADDIN: SOME ENCHANTED GENIE
So….this is not on Disney+. Yet. We’ve been informed that the Aladdin TV series will turn up at some point next year, and when it does, you’ll want to watch this one FIRST…trust me.
A little street girl finds a bottle in the sand and when she opens it, out comes Eden, a female genie. She eventually meets the Genie we’re more familiar with, and of course they fall in love, but not without complications.
The premise provided another opportunity for Disney Australia to strut their stuff, and strut they did. Eden is bursting with such energy that you’ll have to slow down the footage to see everything she turns into and what she does. The animation is overflowing with creativity and personality. Make a date for this one….when you can.
And Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Toonz—I mean, Anime Superhero.